In wake of teen suicides on a New Mexico reservation, Apache youth came to Florida last month to learn of their ancestors’ story of sacrifice. We drove to Orlando to get on a tour bus with them to ride two hours north to St. Augustine to the Castillo de San Marcos (better known as The Fort) to watch these Native American teens and their families experience a place of pain, while hopefully learning about their place due to the strength of those who survived the atrocities there.
It’s described better in Lane Degregory’s words and in a story worth reading:
She believes the suicides stem, in part, from something she calls historical trauma.
“Generations of genocide, colonization, imprisonment, all of that trauma trickles down and leads to other issues,” said Braveheart, who has studied and written about the issue for more than 20 years.
When the government systematically attacks a culture — when it uproots people, murders or jails them and steals their land — the disruption ripples through generations. Examples include Holocaust survivors, Japanese-Americans who were held in internment camps — and American Indians, Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico said.
Clay Geronimo, 24, runs his hand down a coquina wall inside the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, where a crown dancer was carved into the shell to ward off evil spirits and provide protection to the Apaches that were imprisoned there. Clay Geronimo is a direct descendent of the famous Apache Chief Geronimo, and while his great grandfather wasn’t imprisoned at this Florida fort, several of his wives and many members of his tribe were.
Tralin Torres, 12, reads a plaque inside the “Indian Room” at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. Torres, a rising fifth grader, and Mescalero Indian from New Mexico, studied the rooms where his Apache relatives who were brought in by train were imprisoned. He instructed his mom to take plenty of pictures of him at the Fort so he could use them for show-and-tell at school.
After getting off a charter bus from Orlando, Andrew Tsosie, 14, Tralin Torres, 12, and Kolby Kane, 13, (left to right), all of Mescalero, New Mexico walk up to the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine to learn about the historical trauma caused by their Apache ancestors having been imprisoned there.
While an elder gives a blessing in their native language in the room where numerous Apache Indians were imprisoned at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Willymae Smith wipes away the tears brought on by hearing of her relatives pain and suffering.
Much to his surprise, Park Ranger Joey Behm walks into the ranger’s office at the Castillo de San Marcos to find a group of Mescalero Indian women putting on their regalia for a lesson on the historical trauma their people endured there at the fort. “We’re going to have to scalp you now,” one woman joked.
A group of Mescalero Indians from New Mexico traveled to the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine to learn about their ancestors imprisonment there, get a group picture made by friend Dori Tamagni, who does equine therapy on their reservation.
Supervisory Park Ranger Jill Jaworski points out historical photos of Native Americans at the fort in St. Augustine to Mescalero elders Bonna Dell Ortega, center, and Dorene Enjady, right.
As their charter bus drives through the streets of St. Augustine, Fla., the Mescalero youth take out their cell phones to document their journey. For many, it was their first airplane ride and their first trip out of their native New Mexico. More than anything, they wanted to go to the beach while in Florida.